The newly announced Democratic House candidate in Iowa's 1st Congressional District appeared to use her official position as a state senator to secure millions of dollars in tax breaks for a client of her family-owned business.
Liz Mathis, who announced on Tuesday that she was challenging freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, rallied support among her fellow state senators in 2016 to secure up to $2.5 million in sales tax rebates for Prospect Meadows, an Iowa-based nonprofit that paid her husband's marketing firm tens of thousands of dollars for consulting services.
"It took a lot of hard work to get this bill to the Capitol and convince fellow legislators Prospect Meadows would be a good project for not only our area, but for the state," Mathis said after convincing several of her colleagues to reverse their votes. "People wrote off the bill to defeat, but never say never."
The final approval of the $2.5 million tax rebate was given to Prospect Meadows, a complex of 17 baseball and softball fields in Marion, Iowa, in late 2018 in time for the 2019 opening ceremony, where Mathis was "credited with orchestrating strong state support for the project."
ME&V, the marketing firm that Mathis's husband, Mark Mathis, co-founded in 1996, received $94,298 in tax year 2012 and $54,588 in tax year 2013 from Prospect Meadows for "production of promotion materials and consulting," according to tax filings reviewed by Fox News. On the Iowa Senate Statement of Economic Interests disclosure form, Mathis lists herself as the "co-owner" of ME&V in 2012 and labels it as a "family owned business" in 2013. On LinkedIn, she calls herself a "Family Owner" of the AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.
In 2014, ME&V merged with another advertising agency to become AMPERAGE, which continued to do marketing and fundraising work on behalf of Prospect Meadows that year and in 2015. In March 2015, AMPERAGE worked as a "campaign counsel" for their private fundraising campaign and created a promotional fundraising video for Prospect Meadows.
Mathis touted Prospect Meadows multiple times on her official state senator Facebook profile. In December 2015, Mathis posted, "I asked Senators Joe Bolkcom and Bill Dotzler to meet with Prospect Meadows supporters today" and included a picture of her with the two state senators. In February 2016, Mathis posted that she was "proud" to be one of the supporters on the subcommittee that advanced the bill in the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
In April 2016, she posted two more times about Prospect Meadows, encouraging her Facebook followers to "call Iowa House members" to "let them know Prospect Meadows is a great project for our region and the state." A few days later she thanked her House and Senate colleagues for "putting the finishing touches on Prospect Meadows," adding this process was "three years in the making."
In an emailed statement to Fox News on Wednesday, the Mathis campaign responded to a request for comment on whether Mathis disclosed that Prospect Meadows was a client of her family business by saying, "There is no conflict of interest and neither ME&V nor Amperage benefited from a state tax credit awarded to this non-profit complex."
"Prospect Meadows is one of the best things to happen to the Linn County community," the campaign continued. "Thousands of Iowans, including Ashley Hinson, have visited the complex. It's benefited kids with disabilities and improved children's lives."
"This was a bipartisan effort by Linn County legislators to support the creation of a youth baseball and softball complex that’s creating millions in economic impact each year, filling thousands of hotel rooms, and creating new opportunities in the community," they added.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) slammed Mathis in an emailed statement to Fox News, calling her "corrupt."
"Liz Mathis used her official position in the State Senate to get special tax breaks for her client," NRCC spokesman Mike Berg said. "Iowans already knew Liz Mathis was liberal, but now it's becoming clear that she is also corrupt. "